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Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a theme with families who have a child with autism. Parents, usually moms, often tell me about their early experiences with friends, grand parents, members of their churches and communities. Over and over again I hear how these parents have been criticized for their parenting skills and choices regarding discipline. In fact, I have yet to meet a parent of a child on the spectrum who has not received this kind of criticism.  These parents need us to empathize, not criticize.

The most common comment has been something along the lines of: That kid just needs a spanking. Excuse me?! I cannot emphasize enough how discouraging this has been to parents I’ve worked with, parents I have met in the community and at conferences.

I realize that these comments often come from individuals who are ignorant of the fact that the child is on the spectrum, or, probably just as often, is ignorant of spectrum disorders all together. But isn’t that the problem? It is so easy to be critical of any parent, especially one whose kid is melting down in the middle of Target.

At a conference this weekend, a speaker stated that helping people is not about what YOU believe or what YOU think about their situation. It is about who THEY are and how THEY see and feel about their circumstances. Until we know these things about them and have developed a relationship with them, we have no right to judge or criticize their parenting skills.

I have yet to meet a parent with a child who has not truly done everything they could, with the circumstances and resources available.  I write to encourage all parents, but especially parents of children on the spectrum, to continue to do everything in your power to educate yourself, advocate for your child, and as much as is reasonable, seek every available resource and service that you can.

The key here is “reasonable”. Remember that being a caregiver is draining and taxing. Practicing good self-care and utilizing respite care will help. I realize this is easier said than done and we often work with parents to find practical solutions. Check out this post on self-care for parents of kids on the spectrum for more suggestions.